Why officials are leaving a century-old sunken military ship under the sea

The USCG Cutter McCulloch, seen here in an undated photo, launched in 1896 and sank off the coast of Southern California in 1917. 

NOAA/Mare Island Museum via AP

SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. Coast Guard ship that first set out to sea during the Spanish-American War and sank off the coast of Southern California 100 years ago won't be moved anytime soon, officials said Tuesday.

Strong currents and an abundance of sediment would make moving the delicate vessel too difficult, officials said in detailing the discovery of the San Francisco-based USCGC McCulloch. They also paid tribute to its crews, including two members who died in the line of duty.

Researchers focused on the area of the shipwreck 3 miles northwest of Point Conception, California, after noticing a flurry of fish. Sunken ships offer a great place for fish to hide.

ap-17164570359427.jpg

In this undated underwater image provided by NOAA, a fish swims past a circular skylight collapsed inside the officer's quarters in the stern of the shipwreck USCG Cutter McCulloch, which sank off the coast of Southern California in 1917.

NOAA/USCG/Video Ray via AP

The archaeological remains, including a 15-inch torpedo tube molded into the bow stem and the top of a propeller blade, are draped with white anemones 300 feet below the surface, officials said. Fish swim lazily past a 6-pound gun mounted in a platform at the starboard bow.

The ship sank on June 13, 1917, after colliding with a civilian steamship. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard discovered the wreck last fall during a routine survey.

The USCGC McCulloch began its career as part of Commodore George Dewey's Asiatic Squadron in the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

Cutters based in San Francisco in the late 1800s and early 1900s represented American interests throughout the Pacific. They also played important roles in the development of the Western U.S.

After the war, the cutter patrolled the West Coast and later was dispatched to enforce fur seal regulations in the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska, where it also served as a floating courtroom in remote areas.